DURING THE 1940's when repeal of the poll tax as a suffrage prerequisite was a live issue before Congress, many sweeping statements were made about the tax. Opponents of the tax blamed it for preventing millions of citizens from voting in the southern states. They charged that it was adopted to disfranchise Negroes, and that it was administered more to their disadvantage than to the disadvantage of the whites. They held it responsible for an excessive amount of political corruption and implied frequently that it was responsible for most of the ills of the South. Supporters argued that the tax requirement prevented ignorant, corrupt, and disinterested citizens from voting but did not stop any citizen who really wanted to vote. They contended that the tax helped to preserve the purity of the ballot box, instead of causing political corruption.
Little proof was given for such statements. This study was undertaken to find out what the poll tax is and how it operates, and to present an objective, factual analysis of the tax as a voting prerequisite. The purpose was to give a complete picture of the tax in the eleven former Confederate States, the states where poll tax payment has been a voting requirement in this century. To this end, the origins of the tax, its form, the way in which it is administered, the relation between the tax and corrupt election practices, its effects upon voting participation, and the movements to repeal it by state and national action were examined. The study was originally submitted as a doctoral dissertation at The Johns Hopkins University.
V. O. Key and Carl B. Swisher were the author's advisors when he prepared the study as a doctoral dissertation. He is